Thursday, March 29, 2007

Being the Answer

A while back at the library, I met a young man from Taiwan studying English at the local college. At the time he was looking for someone to practise speaking English with. In return, he was offering to either teach Chinese or share his knowledge of the stock market. Well, his dream did come true in a funny way. He got to practise English with me and I wrote about him in an article called: Be Like a Little Child and You are in Heaven. Everyone's a winner!

The next time I saw him he asked me to help him with an English assignment. I haven't seen or heard from him in a while.

A few days ago I received an email from him about an English essay assignment for his upcoming exams. There was a list of topics he could write about. He wanted me to write a structure sample for him to follow. One of the topics I was drawn to was: "Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of studying abroad/working abroad for a period of time." As much as I love writing, I didn't feel it was appropriate to write his essay so I emailed him the following:

T, I can't write your essay for you. Have faith in your own ability. Why don't you choose a topic you can relate to, write it and email me a copy, and I will check for grammar and email it back.
The next day, yesterday, I received his response. He said he'd written a short essay about an experience he had recently and asked me to check the grammar for him.

His essay was about his recent trip to central London to see some friends. At the local tube (underground) station he was told the tubes weren't working. He was advised to take the overground train to another station, where he could change to the tube. He forgot to touch in with his Oyster Card and he had to pay £5 penalty charge. When he arrived at the underground station, he found he couldn't enter with his card. At the information desk, he asked the assistant to check his card. It turned out his card was fine; he had simply been penalised because he didn't understand how the system operates. He asked how he could get his £5 back. The assistant gave him a telephone number to call and explain what happened and his money would be refunded. He explained to the assistant that his spoken English wasn't good enough to speak over the phone and asked the assistant to call the department concerned on his behalf, but the assistant refused. He said he felt "sad and useless." Soon someone turned up and called the number for him and his problem was resolved.

Funnily enough, last Saturday, I noticed the tubes weren't running and that there were buses laid out for tube passengers. My friend had obviously been caught up in the hullabaloo. It was good to see that he had used his experience to his advantage.

My friend had the answer within him all along; he was his essay. If I had written my friend's essay for him I would have deprived him of the joy of being the answer. All he needed to do was trust in himself and he ended up dreaming up an experience that he could write about.

It's interesting how my friend did end up writing an excellent essay about the topic I had in mind. I only needed to make a few grammatical alterations. I told him his grammar was very much improved and he should be very proud.

Being the eternal opportunist that I am, I'm using my friend's experience to write this dream article.

Everyone's a winner!


Related articles: Being the Answer - Part 2; Pay Attention to the Moment; DIY (Do It Yourself); Let Life Happen; Be the Love You Wish to Experience; Playing It Stupid